A mistake in judgment or deviation from the truth, in matters of
fact and from the law in matters of judgment.
2. - 1 Error of fact. The law has wisely provide that a person shall be
excused, if, intending to do a lawful act, and pursuing lawful means to
accomplish his object, he commit an act which would be criminal or
unlawful, if it were done with a criminal design or in an unlawful manner,
for example, thieves break into my house, in the night time, to commit a
burglary, I rise out of my bed, and seeing a person with a drawn sword
running towards my wife, I take him for one of the burglars, and shoot him
down, and afterwards find he was one of my friends, whom, owing to the
dimness of the light, I could not recognize, who had lodged with me, rose
on the first alarm, and was in fact running towards my wife, to rescue her
from the hands of an assassin, still I am innocent, because I committed an
error as to a fact, which I could not know, and had, no time to inquire
3. Again, a contract made under a clear error is not binding, as, if the
seller and purchaser of a house situated in Now York, happen to be in
Philadelphia, and, at the time of the sale, it was unknown to both parties
that the house was burned down, there will be no valid contract, or if I
sell you my horse Napoleon, which we both suppose to be in my stable, and
at the time of the contract he is dead, the sale is void. 7 How. Miss. R.
371 3 Shepl. 45, 20 Wend. 174, 9 Shepl. 363 2 Brown, 27, 5 Conn. 71, 6
Mass. 84, 12 Mass. 36. See Sale.
4. Courts of equity will in general correct and rectify all errors in
fact committed in making deeds and contracts founded on good
considerations. See Mistake.
5. - 2. Error in law. As the law is, or which is the same thing, is
presumed to be certain and definite, every man is bound to understand it,
and an error of law will not, in general, excuse a man, for its violation.
6. A contract made under an error in law, is in general binding, for were
it not so, error would be urged in almost every case. 2 East, 469, see 6
John. Ch. R. 166 8 Cowen, 195, 2 Jac. & Walk. 249, 1 Story, Eq. Jur. 156, 1
Younge & Coll. 232, 6 B. & C. 671 Bowy. Com. 135, 3 Sav. Dr. Rom. App.
viii. But a foreign law will for this purpose be considered as a fact. 3
Shepl. 45, 9 Pick. 112, 2 Ev. Pothier, 369, &c. See, also, Ignorance,
7. By error, is also understood a mistake made in the trial of a cause,
to correct which a writ of error may be sued out of a superior court.
Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition
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